There are a variety of questions surrounding the Colorado State football team this spring, but the running game is not one of them.
Head coach Mike Bobo is well known for a strong rushing attack and, with three practices in the book this spring, it is clear that running back is once again one of the strongest position groups on the team.
The Rams return an experienced starting duo with junior Izzy Matthews and redshirt senior Dalyn Dawkins. With a combined 1,653 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns between the two, the Rams are poised to have one of the strongest backfields in the Mountain West.
Currently recovering from a torn ACL last November, true freshman Marvin Kinsey is also expected to be part of the rotation. While Kinsey recovers, Rashaad Boddie and Darius May will have an opportunity to compete for snaps as well.
After practicing in shorts and shells for the first few days, Bobo was eager to see how the young backs competed in full pads against the starting defense.
“The first two days we were in shorts and I was a little concerned about the way Darius (May) was hitting it up in there,” Bobo said. “I have to look at the film, but I saw a guy run with somebody lean today, which was impressive. The more reps he gets, the more comfortable he is going to feel. But at the end of the day, he has played running back his whole life. He has to do what he has always done, which is run the ball.”
Bobo explained how the spring period allows players like Boddie and May to learn the steps and improve their vision in the backfield. According to the third-year head coach May currently has a firmer grasp on the system, but he likes what he has seen from the two overall.
Much like how Dawkins and Matthews each bring their own running style to the mix, Dawkins with the ability to slash and dash through the defense and Matthews’ raw power, the newest members of the running back stable, Boddie and May, each bring a different pace to the offense.
“Iron strengthens iron,” running back’s coach Bryan Applewhite said of the diversity of styles within his backfield.
When Dawkins sees Matthews make a play or vice versa, it makes the other want to respond and get in the action too. That attitude is contagious throughout the locker room and makes everyone want to elevate their game to the next level.
According to Applewhite May’s game parallels Dawkins’. May is quick and shifty through the hole. In fact, May is so quick laterally that he took reps with the defensive backs last spring before redshirting his freshman campaign.
With a year under his belt and back at the position he is most comfortable in, Applewhite has liked what he has seen from the speedy New Orleans-based back, but knows there is still much growth to come.
“He is settling back in, but it still takes some time,” Applewhite said. “(Last year) he was on the scout team, running the opposing offense. So this is really his third day back into the offense. Today I think he (May) felt a lot more comfortable with what we are doing.”
Boddie is much more of a bruiser. A guy that will run straight through the defender instead of around him, so playing in full pads is much more conducive to his tough style of play.
“I love seeing the team in pads,” Applewhite said. “You really get to see how physical a kid is willing to play when you put the pads on.”
With 12 practices remaining in the spring period, the coaching staff will continue to get looks at these developing backs and how they progress through the system.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.